“They shall confess their sin which they have done: and he shall recompense his trespass with the principal thereof, and add unto it the fifth part thereof, and give it unto him against whom he hath trespassed.”
“Repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.”
“By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them.”
The Altar of Burnt Offerings is also known as the Altar of Sacrifice. This vessel was used on a daily basis for an ordinance called the burnt offering. The burnt offering is another name for the ordinance of sacrifice as practiced by all the patriarchs from Adam down to Israel. Abel offered the firstlings of his flocks as commanded by the Lord. (Gen 4:4) The Altar of Sacrifice was also used for many other ordinances and offerings.
The scriptures describe the vessel as being five cubits wide, five cubits long, and three cubits tall. Horns were fashioned at the four corners of the altar. The structure was made of acacia wood overlaid with brass or bronze. In order to provide airflow for the fire, and reduce weight, the altar was hollow in the middle along the z-axis. A network of brass or bronze, similar to a modern grill was placed upon an interior ledge, or compass. For transportation purposes, the altar had two staves or poles that ran on each side to carry and move when necessary.
Several accessories to the altar were also made to assist with operation and maintenance. Since the function of the altar was to burn animal sacrifices according to the specifications of the Lord, there were pans for the ashes, shovels, basons, fleshhooks, fire pans, etc. all of which were made of bronze.
The altar was anointed by Moses before it was placed into service for the first time and later at other times as required by certain ordinances. Under the Law (Deut. 12:5, 11–14) the people were forbidden to build an altar except in the place where God should choose to put his Name, i.e., the temple. Within the tabernacle, the altar was placed between the gate and the lavar. See the layout page for a visual.
The fire upon the altar was to never be extinguished and it was the duty of the Levitical Priesthood to make sure that the fire never when out and was properly stoked. (Lev. 6:13)
AT-ONE-MENT WITH THE LORD
Remember the tabernacle was the House of the Lord. The Lord invites all his children to return to his presence. However, the nature of the Lord is perfection in all aspects, and no unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God. A prophet of God described how we as children of God will feel if we have not followed his commandments by the time we have returned to the grave:
“For our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; we shall not be found spotless; and our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God; and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence.” ~ Alma 12:14
The altar of burnt offerings was a place where ordinances as set forth by the Lord were performed so that violators of God’s law could be made at one with the Father
LAW OF SACRIFICE
“And he gave unto [Adam and Eve] commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord. And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord. And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me. And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth. Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore.” ~ Moses 5:5
The Father sacrificed His Only Begotten Son so that the rest of His children could return to his presence. The Son laid down his life for the redemption of mankind. From Adam to Moses and from Moses to Jesus Christ, mankind was commanded by the Father to offer up the firstlings of their flocks and their fields. This was done through the shedding of blood of a male animal without blemish. This command was in effect until the death of Jesus Christ, which ended sacrifice by the shedding of blood.
The Lord commanded after His death:
“And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings. And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost…” ~ 3 Nephi 9:19
As the Father was willing to sacrifice His son, as the Son was willing to sacrifice His own life, as Abraham was willing to sacrifice His son Isaac as a test of faith by the Lord, so too, should we be willing to sacrifice all that the Lord asks if we truly desire to return to His presence.
DEFINITION OF MODERN DAY SIN
What is sin? The notion of “sin” means different things in different cultures. In some cultures it is closely associated with the concept of committing crime. In others it applies only if one is caught doing something wrong and thus brings shame to a family or community. Clarify that sin is disobedience to God’s commandments and results in becoming separated from God. God knows all that we do and think, and we displease Him when we sin.
A prophet of God described a few of the modern words the scriptures use to describe sin:
“Murder, adultery, theft, cursing, unholiness in masters, disobedience in servants, unfaithfulness, improvidence, hatred of God, disobedience to husbands, lack of natural affection, high-mindedness, flattery, lustfulness, infidelity, indiscretion, backbiting, whispering, lack of truth, striking, brawling, quarrelsomeness, unthankfulness, inhospitality, deceitfulness, irreverence, boasting, arrogance, pride, double-tongued talk, profanity, slander, corruptness, thievery, embezzlement, despoiling, covenant-breaking, incontinence, filthiness, ignobleness, filthy communications, impurity, foolishness, slothfulness, impatience, lack of understanding, unmercifulness, idolatry, blasphemy, denial of the Holy Ghost, Sabbath breaking, envy, jealousy, malice, maligning, vengefulness, implacability, bitterness, clamor, spite, defiling, reviling, evil speaking, provoking, greediness for filthy lucre, disobedience to parents, anger, hate, covetousness, bearing false witness, inventing evil things, fleshliness, heresy, presumptuousness, abomination, insatiable appetite, instability, ignorance, self-will, speaking evil of dignitaries, becoming a stumbling block; and in our modern language, masturbation, petting, fornication, adultery, homosexuality; and every sex perversion, every hidden and secret sin and all unholy and impure practices.
“These are transgressions the Lord has condemned through his servants. Let no one rationalize his sins on the excuse that a particular sin of his is not mentioned nor forbidden in scripture.”1
“But let us emphasize that right and wrong, righteousness and sin, are not dependent upon man’s interpretations, conventions and attitudes. Social acceptance does not change the status of an act, making wrong into right. If all the people in the world were to accept homosexuality, as it seems to have been accepted in Sodom and Gomorrah, the practice would still be deep, dark sin.”2
The Lord in his mercy forbids anything that prevents His children from returning to him. If we are guilty of committing any of the acts mentioned above (the list is NOT comprehensive) we must repent. We must offer up a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and do all the Lord requires in humility.
Our faith in Christ and our love for Him lead us to repent, or to change our thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors that are not in harmony with His will. Repentance includes forming a fresh view of God, ourselves, and the world. When we repent, we feel godly sorrow, then we stop doing things that are wrong and continue doing things that are right. Bringing our lives in line with God’s will through repentance is a central purpose of our lives. We can return to live with God the Father only through Christ’s mercy, and we receive Christ’s mercy only on condition of repentance. To repent, we recognize our sins and feel remorse, or godly sorrow. We confess our sins to God. We also confess very serious sins to God’s authorized Church leaders, who can help us repent. We ask God in prayer to forgive us. We do all we can to correct the problems our actions may have caused; this is called restitution. As we repent, our view of ourselves and the world changes. As we change, we recognize that we are children of God and that we need not continue making the same mistakes over and over. If we sincerely repent, we turn away from our sins and do them no more. We resist any desire to commit sin. Our desire to follow God grows stronger and deeper. Sincere repentance brings several results. We feel God’s forgiveness and His peace in our lives. Our guilt and sorrow are swept away. We feel the influence of the Spirit in greater abundance. And when we pass from this life, we will be more prepared to live with our Heavenly Father and His Son.
Repentance is the very core of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Altar of Burnt Offerings burned day an night, and the smoke rising from it could be seen by all of Israel and as far as the horizon. The altar is a symbol of Christ. It is on the path or the way, which leads back to the Father. There is no other way.
Through repentance, not only will we gain the blessings previously mentioned, but we will in effect change the world in which we live. What this world needs is repentance. It needs at-one-ment with the Lord. You must learn the ways and laws of the Lord, then you must humbly choose to adhere to those laws. Repentance is one of the greatest gifts offered by the Lord to his children. For it is the only way which we can partake of the washing and purification as offered by the Lamb of God, to be clean and return to the presence of the Father.
1. Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969, p. 25.
2. Ibid, p. 79